Unknown to many, two ranking military officials who are Negrenses were actively, but silently involved in the peace negotiations between the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front, with their Army unit, the 6th Infantry Division, acting as the “glue” in keeping both parties at the negotiating table, until the settlement was reached.
Maj. Gen. Rey Ardo, commanding general of the 6th Infantry Division, and Col. Ademar Tomaro, incoming 602nd Infantry Brigade, said their efforts have finally paid off with the signing of the Framework Agreement between the Philippine government and the MILF today at Malacañang.
The 6th Infantry Division and 602nd Infantry Brigade are stationed in central Mindanao, with 45 percent of the MILF armed fighters also in the region.
Ardo, who is from Barangay Paraiso in Sagay City, said his unit has gone through challenges of keeping the balance between protecting people from atrocities perpetrated by armed lawless elements and preserving the gains of the ongoing GPH-MILF talks.
He said his task was to ensure that the MILF would keep on talking with the government to find lasting solutions to the conflict”. Ardo, used to serve as chairman of the Philippines government panel in the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities.
The government resolve to end the Moro insurgency, was put to a test on October 18 last year in Al-Barka, Basilan, where 19 soldiers died, in what the Army described as an act of treachery by the MILF. The series of crisis, including the 2008 killing rampage in northern and central Mindanao by rogue MILF leaders Ameril Umbra Kato and Abdullah Macapaar, alias Kumander Bravo, plunged the talks into allegations that the government did not care anymore for the welfare of its soldiers, and instead, was siding with the enemies of the state.
However, Ardo, said the government and MILF continued to draw their strength from their initial successes to continue working for the elusive peace settlement in Mindanao.
While the government’s strategy for putting an end to the Mindanao conflict relies heavily on the peaceful resolutions, its strength in moving towards the path of reconciliation and political stability also lies in its military, he said.
“Perseverance, sincerity in words and actions and a bit of risk-taking will get us to our dreams”, Ardo said. He was also among those invited by the MLIF leadership to witness the Bangsamoro Leaders’ Assembly held at the rebel’s main stronghold in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat on July 6 to 10.
With the signing of the Framework Agreement today, Ardo, who expressed satisfaction over his share in the peace efforts, said he hopes it will bring closer the attainment of the people’s vision of a just and lasting peace in Mindanao.
Tomaro, who is from Brgy. Tapi, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental, assisted Ardo, being in his personal staff, in the peace endeavor. He is slated to assume command of the 602nd Infantry Brigade stationed in Carmen, North Cotabato, on Oct. 24.* GPB